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Excerpt

In any appreciation of Emile Zola it is well to admit first of all that he was lacking in taste, discrimination, selection, vision, a sense of form, indeed, in almost everything we have come to deem requisite in an artist. But, having admitted so much, we must also be prepared to acknowledge that he was a man of a kind of genius, a conspicuous and in many ways a great novelist, and that he exerted a profound and lasting influence upon the development of literature. Thus it comes about that even while execrating him, critics have paid tribute, if only by the heat of their disparagement, to the peculiar and particular genius that was his. Their protests have been like the expressions of horror on the part of the righteous but knowing at the thought of what a spectacle a respectable woman, slightly intoxicated, might make of herself with one more heady cocktail in her system. Zola was a boorish and heavy-handed seducer who urged upon the novel a very raw and potent drink. The result was not pretty or decorous: it was, often, shocking, pitiable and disgusting; grace, modesty and restraint were, for the moment, in abeyance; skirts crawled in careless, unkempt angles past the knees under the relaxed, indifferent posture, and unpleasant things came from half articulate babblings from loose lips and a freed subconscious. But the episode showed that life, even in fiction, might be of the earth earthy and that beneath the enameled exterior of cultural standards and refinements, there exists a heritage of animality that does not, cannot, die, so long as life lasts, for it is, in the ultimate, the motivating force of even the highest aspirations of life itself.

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